A crash that killed dissident Oswaldo Paya in Cuba last year was caused when his car was hit from behind by another, the driver of the crashed vehicle asserted in an interview published Wednesday.
Angel Carromero told the Washington Post that a rental car he was sharing with Paya had been followed by a succession of vehicles after leaving to town of Varadero but the last one "began to harass us, getting very close."
"The last time I looked in the mirror, I realized that the car had gotten too close -- and suddenly I felt a thunderous impact from behind," said Carromero, a Spanish conservative youth leader.
"I lost control of the car, and also consciousness -- or that is what I believe, because from that point my memories are unclear, perhaps from the medications they gave me."
Carromero's account directly contradicts both official Cuban findings and his own statement in a video tape released by Cuban authorities a week after the July 22 crash, which killed Paya and another dissident Harold Cepero.
In that statement, Carromero said they had not been hit from behind by a second vehicle.
Swedish political activist Jens Aron Modig, who survived the crash, also told reporters at a press conference organized by the government that he did not recall there having been a second vehicle.
But Paya's family has called for an independent investigation, saying early on that they had heard the dissident's car had been rammed from behind.
Paya was one of the Cuban government's most prominent critics, and his death caused an international storm.
Carromero, 27, was sentenced to four years in prison for his alleged role in causing the fatal crash but after several months was transferred to Spain where he is serving out the sentence.
In the Post interview, his first since the leaving Cuba, Carromero described a nerve-wracking ride through Cuba with what appeared to be government surveillance on the tail of their rental car.
"They were following us from the beginning," he said.
"In fact, as we left Havana, a tweet from someone close to the Cuban government announced our departure: 'Payá is on the road to Varadero.' Oswaldo told me that, unfortunately, this was normal.
"But I really became uneasy when we stopped to get gas, because the car following us stopped, waited in full view until we were finished and then continued following.
"When we passed provincial borders, the shadowing vehicle would change. Eventually it was an old, red Lada.
"And then another, newer car appeared and began to harass us, getting very close. Oswaldo and Harold told me it must be from 'la Comunista' because it had a blue license plate, which they said is what the government uses."
It was that vehicle that he said apparently hit them from behind. The crash occurred near Bayamo, Cuba, about 700 kilometers (420 miles) southeast of Havana.
Carromero said he came to as he was being put in a large van, and later found himself in a civilian hospital that had suddenly been taken over by soldiers.
A uniformed Interior Ministry officer questioned him and gave him a statement to sign, he said.
"I passed the next few weeks half-sedated and without knowing exactly what they were putting in me," he said.